Hondarribia – Fuenterrabía, and the Delivery of the Kutxa

“And the more rounds the ark gives, the better the season.” This is the motto of the Festival of the Delivery of the Kutxa

The Fishermen Association of San Pedro is one of the most well-known institutions in the village that lies on the bank of the Bidasoa river. This group of fishermen was born in August, 1631, and from then on, its leaders have been elected by vote on San Pedro Day, June 29th, and ratified during the Festival of Santiago.

The Festival of the Delivery of the Kutxa (or Ark) in Hondarribia- Fuenterrabía is a festival that is both propitious and transitional of powers. During this festival, the new Abbot Mayor and the Mayors of the Sea take possession of their charges while predicting the quality of the new fishing season through a curious and ancient ritual. Currently, the elected officials serve a four-year term, so the festival only happens every four years. During the evening of July 25th, an entourage walks through the streets of Fuenterrabía in a small, round trip procession. At the head of the group walks a young daughter of Arrantzale, who carries on her head a wooden ark (of notable proportions) that contains the founding records, the account books, and the various relics of the Fishermen Association of San Pedro.

Behind her, the leaders of the association are escorted by the bosses of skippers and rowers. The whole procession is accompanied by the sounds of the Marcha Okendo. From the headquarters of the association, the procession makes its way to the parochial church, in whose sacristy takes place the reading of the annual balance of accounts and the inauguration, if appropriate, of the new charges. From here, the group returns to the Marina district and to the arc of the headquarters of the association.

At this point, the event that everyone has been waiting for takes place. In front of the headquarters, the rowers form two lines and make an arch with their oars, under which stands the young woman that carries the kutxa. This is a very important moment. The outcome of this ceremony will determine the quantity and quality of the fish caught in the next fishing season.

The music begins to play, and the young woman turns around and around, still balancing the chest on her head. During this process, people crowd around the young woman and cheer her on.

How long she can spin will determine how favorable the sea will be, and the number of turns she completes with the chest still resting atop her head will determine the success of the catches of the next season. The Festival of the Delivery of the Kutxas is undoubtedly one of the most curious festivals of northern Spain. It is a very special experience to have first hand, and it really puts in perspective the ties to the sea that the Basque people have had since their beginnings.

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